One of the biggest factors to consider when buying an electric vehicle is its driving range, or how far it can go on a single charge. If you already own an EV, you want to trust that it's giving you accurate information about how much range you've got when you're on the road.
Tesla drivers might not be getting that. The EV maker has been inflating the range it shows on the dashboard, giving drivers a false sense of how far they'll be able to go, according to an investigative report published Thursday by Reuters. Then, when it became "inundated' with thousands of complaints, Tesla tried to dodge the issue through a team dedicated to canceling service appointments for those drivers, Reuters reported, citing several people familiar with the matter.
Tesla vehicles provide an estimated driving range via their dashboard and navigation system. Both have overestimated how many miles are left on a single charge, though estimates from the navigation system tend to be more realistic, according to Reuters.
Reuters reported that the practice of rigging an overly optimistic driving range on Tesla dashboards began almost a decade ago. The carmaker would use algorithms to exaggerate the number of miles the vehicle would travel with a full battery, a person familiar with the early software design told Reuters. Drivers would see a more realistic range projection when the EV battery dropped below 50% of its maximum charge. It's unclear if the algorithms are still in place with Tesla's current software.
Tesla car owners who contacted the company about their vehicle not getting as many miles on a charge as expected were contacted by the company's "Diversion Team," according to Reuters. This team reportedly contacts customers who have service appointments about their vehicle's driving range, advises them that a remote test of their vehicle says the car is working properly and then cancels the scheduled appointment. The Diversion Team closes hundreds of appointments a week and members of the team will celebrate a cancellation by striking a metal xylophone, the report says.
Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year, South Korea fined Tesla more than $2 million for exaggerating the driving ranges on its vehicles.
Among the EVs available in the US, the EPA-estimated driving ranges for Teslas are some of the highest, with the 2023 Tesla Model S at 405 miles being the longest out of all the current models. However, various factors can reduce the number of miles an EV can travel on a single charge, from the weather to an unhealthy battery.
The Environmental Protection Agency is the organization that approves the driving range listed for the vehicle. Audits of Tesla vehicles showed the EPA requiring the company to lower the estimated ranges by an average of 3%, but the agency says individuals' experience may vary from the estimates. Other automotive testers told Reuters they experienced similar exaggeration of driving range miles when testing Tesla cars.